Theater archives

The Do-Tell Hotel


The National Theater of the United States’ Placebo Sunrise takes place in a resort hotel (or maybe a cruise ship) where the unctuous staff, armed and dangerous, makes war on the guests. Garvey (Yehuda Duenyas) and Superpant$ (Ryan Bronz), hapless visitors, lurk and commiserate, the latter a tense paranoid given to spouting philosophical conundrums, the former a laid-back foil who winds up defecting to the other side.

Handsome James Stanley, who penned the evanescent text, has the scowl of a silent-film villain and the physical fluency of Astaire. Among the “help,” always trolling for tips, is George Nobl, a dapper, professorial type playing a waiter (he actually teaches math Wednesdays, outside on 42nd Street, offering candy bars to people who solve his problems correctly). Porkhed Stu and Jody Elff’s eerie “sound manipulation” distinguishes private conversation from the social smarm in the brilliantly crafted corridor, five times deeper than it is wide, that fills the stage. Lined with five archways, six doors, and walls that revolve unpredictably, it has a permeable floor, and people duck in and out through the windows. The script has less impact than the visceral physical comedy with its hints of violence.

Many in the house were back for at least a second time. Cast members chat up the audience at intermission, and a bartender offers powerful, cheap drinks. Seats are a bargain and increasingly hard to come by. The sleeper hit of the season (I mean this literally: an 11 p.m. show billed as “1 hour or more” ran until 1 a.m., and I’m unsure whether its delightfully dizzy ambience issued from the stage or from my own drowsiness) is so ambiguously titled that every review gets it differently. We may be looking at bohemia’s version of Rocky Horror, a cult in the making.